The Selfie Subjectivity of Trans* Social Media Influencers

  • Amy Lynne Hill Vanderbilt University
Keywords: subject, selfie, abject, social media, photography


The selfie has emerged as one of the most globally recognizable images and is embroiled in both popular culture and scholarly debates, without a consensus in sight. It is one of the foremost ways in which individuals decode expectations of hegemonic subjectivity and encode their identities in accordance with or subversion of those codes as determined by the many intricacies of the selfie. I argue that we approach selfies as a mediated extension of the practices and power matrices which inscribe and materialize our subjectivity, and that the ambiguity of such digital self-portraits is not a bug, but rather a crucial feature of this digital social code: it is evidence of the abject, a vital part of our subjectivity. I build my analysis on Judith Butler’s engagement with sociologist Erving Goffman and philosopher Julia Kristeva, and Ace Lehner’s seminal selfie theory. Using examples of trans-identifying Instagram influencers, I present an understanding of the selfie that allows individuals to powerfully mobilize the selfie to challenge and disrupt oppressive codes of subjectivity.